Friday represents the final day of the weeklong World Team camp at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas. Remember — it isn’t just one World Team in Sin City, it’s all three US squads still with World Championship events coming up: Junior, Senior, and U23, along with a slew of additional training partners and age-group athletes who are also in attendance to provide reinforced support.
On Wednesday, we laid out the general outline the Junior and Senior Teams had been following and the coaches tasked with overseeing those wrestlers shared their perspectives on the training plans, as well as the progress being made thus far. We’re going with the same format this time around but with one exception — USA Greco-Roman Operations Manager Gary Mayabb, who has been instrumental in organizing the camp’s curriculum and growing the knowledge base that the program as a whole is abiding by. And as such, it is Mayabb with whom we will begin.
Gary Mayabb — USA Greco-Roman Operations Mgr.
5PM: Your responsibilities at this camp, and just in general, are far-reaching and include oversight. The athletes at this camp cover the scope of the three major age-groups. How have you enjoyed the communal atmosphere among the athletes in attendance given the different age ranges?
Gary Mayabb: It has been great. The younger guys have brought a ton of energy with them. Their learning prowess is very high. They jump on things, they’re open-minded. We spoke on Sunday about having the “Medalist Mindset” that we’re pushing forward right now, and we think they have that.
The Seniors and Juniors have also been great mentors to them. Several times, our Senior athletes have gone down and wrestled directly with them. We’ve gone live go’s with the younger athletes. Today we were working on push-outs, working on controlling the center of the mat, and a lot of our Senior athletes had no problem grabbing a younger guy and bringing him into the fold saying, Hey, this is how you fight.
It has just been super-exciting to watch that. When you have someone like Sam Hazewinkel — who is a 35-year-old college coach and World Team member — with all of the success he has had throughout his folkstyle, freestyle, and Greco career, it has just been a great, great situation. He grabbed several young men the last three days and worked directly with them during camp time. It has been very exciting to see how that multi-generational group has been working together. It is all coming together, it is all Greco, and it has just been awesome.
5PM: We know that the Juniors and the Seniors have had differences in their training plans in Vegas. Does the U23 Team have their own distinctive training plan, as well?
Maybb: What we’re trying to push right now is to get a National curriculum out there. You and I spoke months ago about trying to get common language and we’re starting to get there. We’re starting to get to that common language. We cannot get to a common philosophy until we start speaking the same language, but I think that’s starting to happen. Matt (Lindland) has been very excited about it. It has been an unbelievably positive camp going by what we’ve seen on the internet and stuff like that. It has been an ongoing theme coming from these guys. They are excited to work together and for each other, and they’ve been sharing that across the board not just with their teammates, but also with the different Teams that are here.
5PM: There are a lot of coaches who have been in Vegas this week. Is that part of this, too, coaches learning more and more about each other’s perspectives?
Mayabb: There has just been a great sharing out. Starting from Day 1, we made minor adjustments each day. We’ve had great energy throughout our practices, the guys are upbeat, and they are firing off on offense. We’re just challenging them again, again, and again. Up to now, they have just been meeting all of those challenges. They’re just giving it a shot, they are trying different things. This morning, we had a group of Junior World Team members who were very willing to just push it to the point where their speed work was so high that they were making a lot of mistakes. But they kept pushing through it, and what they were doing was fixing their own footwork. They were fixing their own ties, they were finding ways to get into the ties faster to lead off and connect to an offensive attack, body attacks. It is just super-exciting to watch all of that take place.
But again — all of us are smarter than any one of us. It has truly been a group saying, Okay, watch it; let’s interject what we can; now let’s fix these couple of things we have to fix and go work on it again. It has just been an ongoing cycle of learning that I think all of us have been getting after.
5PM: According to Nate Engel and Herb House, this official first camp for the Junior World Team was about getting them together personally along with whatever work that goes on during practice. What is the progression you’re looking for at the Olympic Training Center next week considering that by then you will have them together for a longer period of time?
Maybb: What the Seniors did, Matt had them in Oregon and they did a lot of team-building, like what you were alluding to, acclimation to a larger group. But as we moved into this camp, our objective all along was Sunday-Monday-Tuesday, we hit that middle of the week day and it was going to be individual work. This morning, the athletes came in and went right into individual work with the way that they are going to warm up prior to their matches at the Worlds. We put them through that part of it and then we turned around and we gave the coaches back their offensive sheets. It was about them working their primary and secondary offenses, with their primary ties going into their primary offenses. Then they worked on their two best finishes off of their primary and secondary positions.
At the end of the day, we’re working a combination of eight and sixteen between primary and secondary offense. Getting into it from one tie and coming out of it with another finish. Right now, we’re working on two ties going into the primary with two finishes coming out. What we’re working towards is getting to the point where we have four ties going in, four attacks going into the primary — four ways going into the move and four ways to finish the move. Once they get to that point there are options that will just keep expanding. We have to constantly move these athletes towards their own individual plans, and today we saw that working very well for these guys.
JUNIOR WORLD TEAM COACHES ENGEL & HOUSE
5PM: You still have practices tomorrow, but what is your general assessment after four days?
Engel: I think it has been great. The guys have been working hard. The practices that have been put together have really pushed the guys. I have been seeing a lot of points being scored on the feet and in par terre, so it has been really good to see that come together, because obviously, we’ve got to score points to win matches. I have been watching a lot of the Juniors since I will be coaching them and they have grown a lot over the past four days.
5PM: If there is one specific thing you wanted to see athletes execute or demonstrate the most during this camp, what would it be?
Engel: I would say taking hold right away and getting to our offense, that was the #1 thing I wanted to see. I know the guys have been doing that and it has been great to see.
5PM: We talked the other night about progress and the newer athletes picking up the techniques and doing more Greco. Have you been pleased with progression you’ve witnessed now that camp is about to wrap up in Vegas?
House: Oh, definitely. These guys want to work and improve, and you could see it throughout the past couple of days. They have been working great with each other and listening to the coaches. The difference between the beginning of camp up to now has been excellent and they’re asking the right questions. They’re gaining confidence in what they’re doing more and more, and so, yeah, I am really pleased with the progress the guys have made.
5PM: There are newer guys, but this is also a Team with several athletes who have a lot of experience, like Kamal Bey, Taylor LaMont, Cohlton Schultz, and Alston Nutter has been a full-timer for a couple of years now. Do the more experienced guys take on a leadership role for the wrestlers who are newer to Greco?
House: Yes, they do. They see it. They see what Kamal Bey has accomplished, what LaMont has done, what Cohlton Schultz has been able to do, and they want to do it, too. Those guys are setting an example for the newer Greco athletes, because the newer guys see what someone like Kamal or Cohlton has achieved and now they think, If they can do it, I can do it, too. That brings their confidence up. They look at what the other guys have done and they realize that if they work hard enough and keep improving, they can do it, too. They can ask questions and get help, and it motivates them to keep improving.
SENIOR WORLD TEAM COACHES MANGO & DOMINGUEZ
5PM: You sounded pleased following the first two days of practice in Vegas. Now we’re at four days, has it been the same good feeling?
Mango: Yeah, I’m proud of the guys, they did a great job coming up with their mat strategies. That is always a great start when you get on the mat having a plan and knowing what you want to get to. These guys are just getting after it. I’m a little guy, so I have been taking a special interest in the lighter weights, and those guys are trying to beat each other up and score points. They are really fighting and giving each other a good look, which is going to prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead.
5PM: Engel got asked a similar question, but coming into this camp what did you want to see the most, and on the flipside, what was it that you were hoping to see the least?
Mango: Knowing that one of the main goals coming into camp involved making a game plan for your matches, I think the thing I wanted to see most was when guys get their game plans, sticking to their game plans without the coach sitting there telling you over and over again, Hey, get to this, get to this, get to this. They know it and they can kind of self-motivate and get to their positions on their own, which I feel a lot of our guys did a really great job with.
The one thing I guess I didn’t want to see was guys making the same mistakes over and over again without correction, and I feel they did a great job with that today, too. Dalton, earlier today I was telling him about his lift. He doesn’t have to try to get it perfect; once he gets the guy up he can throw it. I told him once and on the next go he got a four-point throw. That’s one thing I was keeping an eye on, the ability to make corrections on the fly and adapt pretty quickly.
5PM: What aspects of this training camp have offered the most examples of improvement, at least going by what you have personally noticed since Monday?
Dominguez: Matt and Gary ran the first day of practice, so the Senior guys were on point because Matt and Gary are always running practice for them. Their first day was excellent — not that every other day hasn’t been excellent — but they understood what was happening. Mark (Halvorson) set up the practice schemes for Wednesday, Thursday, and a little bit of Tuesday’s, and it actually took Spenser and I like 28 hours to decipher his hieroglyphics (laughs). So to be honest with you, the improvement has come from the coaches the most. I think the athletes were getting through it very well and they understood what we wanted. But I would read what Mark wanted and go, Man, I think I read that wrong. Then I’d have to go over and talk to him and come back, Okay guys, I think I screwed this up. It was always a competition between Spenser and I to see who could figure it out first (laughs).
Today, we were spot on. The athletes, they didn’t suffer, right? The improvement of the coaching language from one to the next we all actually assimilated very well. The boys, the men, they all performed really well once we were clicking. Monday was a good day, Tuesday was slowed down. Not that Tuesday was a bad day, it was more that we just had to figure out how to do this. And then Wednesday and Thursday it picked up again really well.
On the athlete side, for Sam (Hazewinkel) especially, he probably got to wrestle more Greco, or good Greco — just because when he’s back home in Oklahoma City I don’t know what his partners’ schedules are like. But here, he was having a blast. He was like a kid in a candy store. It’s awesome. Dalton (Roberts), Jesse (Thielke), and (Ellis) Coleman, those four worked out with each other quite a bit and they were spot on the whole time. Your middleweights starting with Jon Jay (Chavez), Kamal (Bey), Geordan (Speiller), and Patrick (Martinez) also did real well. Patrick had to move up and down quite a bit because Tracy (G’Angelo Hancock) didn’t have (Adam) Coon here, so Patrick had to wrestle up a lot and he handled it very well. To be honest with you, Patrick has had a great camp. Tracy, if he a couple of bigger guys I think he would have been pushed a little more. But that’s okay, too, it’s good to have some fast featherweight competition.
They broke down into little groups like that and they worked hard. The younger athletes, the age-group wrestlers in the room, saw what the Seniors were doing and they improved because they didn’t want to be left behind. Overall, I would say the learning curve and growth throughout the camp went up. Everyday was better. Every day.
5PM: This was, of course, a very important camp for myriad reasons. On Friday, is it going to be a ramped-up tone on the mat since it’s the last practice before Germany? Or will there be a little downshift and include more moving around and not as much intensity?
Dominguez: I think we’ll stay the course. That gate will still be going up, but I do believe there will also be a little bit of a recap. We will make sure we get to everything we talked about this week. So, instead of six-minute positions where we spend time and work, we’ll drop it down to four so we can add in everything. We’ll recap, get some live in, and try not to break the body down too much. We’ve been probably anywhere from between 20 and 30 minutes of live each practice, so I bet that we are going be around somewhere between 15 and 22 minutes of live tomorrow. Then we will be recapping, answering any questions, and fixing any problems with everybody here. After that, we’ll go home and then it’s off to Germany on Wednesday.